Spending money locally to support small business impacts the economy in a bigger way than most people realize. Many are not aware that for every $100 spent in a local business, $68 will stay in that community. When that same $100 is spent in a larger chain store, only $43 stay in the community. This fact is one of the reasons that retail consultant and professional speaker Cinda Baxter created the 350 Project.
The 350 Project is a campaign brought about to raise awareness of the positive impact small businesses have on their local economy. The tagline created for this awareness is “Pick 3, spend 50, save your local economy”.
The “3” represents three independently owned businesses that would be missed if they were not in that area anymore. The “50” represents the fact that if half of the employed population spent at least $50 in those local businesses every month, $42.6 billion would be generated in the local economy.
Baxter originally got the idea to start the 350 Project after several media stories related to the current economy. Early in March 2009, Oprah aired a show that discussed how consumers spend too much money on “wants” rather than “needs”. A few days later a news story from CBS reported consumer spending drives that 70% of the economy.
On March 11, 2009, Baxter put the 350 Project into effect through a blog post. Her post discussed how consumers supporting small businesses in their area could channel money back into local economies.
“The goal is simple: Ask consumers to frequent three local brick and mortar businesses they don’t want to see disappear, and to spend a very affordable $50 per month doing it,” Baxter said.
For one town in particular, small businesses are what drive the character and economy of that community: St. Joseph, Michigan is a small town located on the southwestern part of Lake Michigan.
Several aspects of the location, such as the beaches and the lake, are what drive tourism. However, perhaps the largest contributor to the successful community is the small businesses that make up downtown St. Joseph.
Miranda Skibbe, manager of JUST BEAD IT-a small bead and jewelry shop– is one retailer that really appreciates the downtown area. She said the location creates a lot of foot traffic and the three blocks of shopping all in a row really allow a “something-for-everybody” feel.
The success of the downtown area is the main reason for the welcome center, St. Joseph Today. The main mission of the organization is to improve the image and recognition of St. Joseph to further business and tourism growth.
They are dedicated to serving visitors, residents and local businesses. Through encouraging the support of the small independent businesses, they are promoting the same ideals that are advocated by the 350 Project.
One element the organization helps to bring to the area is local festivals. Since the town is very tourist driven, the spring and summer months bring a lot of people to the area. To help bring more business in the fall and winter months, St. Joe Today organizes various festivals and events to draw people in.
“The festivals keep people knowing that things are happening down here in the middle of winter [and that] brings people knowledge about what’s down here”, Erika Langbehn of DK Boutique said. Langbehn is the manager of a small clothing business downtown.
Exposure for the shops downtown also promotes the community by introducing a variety of unique shops and items that are offered through small businesses. One example is the local surf shop.
“Nobody believes that you can surf on the Great Lakes. It definitely helps us sell more in our area by exposing people to the fact that you can surf on Lake Michigan”, Cameron Mammina, manager of Third Coast Surf Shop said.
A community’s economy can be strengthened in a very easy way through the support of small businesses. Cinda Baxter wanted to spread the word about this so she created flyers and resources that are free to any independently owned business that wants to help advocate their importance to local economies. Baxter says her message is positive and achievable.
“Slamming the brakes on all spending stalls economic recovery. It’s just that simple,” Baxter said.
Take a closer look into how a specific small business, Forever Books, is operated and is successful in downtown St. Joseph.